I told him he was handsome and he told me he wasn’t sure. I told him he was special and he shook his head. His eyes downcast, he thought about my words. I saw the way his eyes rushed around the room, moving like sparks of lightening but seeing nothing. He was deep inside his mind, with my words and his own. Inside his mind our words danced face to face. He said nothing. His eyes returned to me, seeing my face and he shrugged. In his mind the words I gave him were still roaming, in search of a place to sit. When I told him he was very smart, he gave me a list of things he had yet to learn. My words again went into the warehouse of his mind, and found no place to rest. Inside his mind, a game of musical chairs played out. Imagine there are 5 chairs in a small circle within the mind of my seven year old son. Each chair has been claimed. Then, I add a new player. My new player is an expression of positive affirmation. The new player enters the game, and has no seat. The game begins. The music starts and the others get up and circle the seats. The other players are not like the new player. The other players are doubt, fear, worry, disappointment and sadness. When the music stops, my son has to decide who gets a seat, and who does not fit. Time and time again, my words of affirmation are left without a seat, and the game is over. This is what happens in the mind of my child with ADHD. Meanwhile within my chest, my heart breaks again and again for him. They called him defiant, disruptive, unruly, stubborn, and bad and those words each found a seat within him. Ask him what he thinks of himself and those words will parade out of his mouth in a declaration of self-destruction and shame. He did not do this to himself. His mind is a wide open field of discovery, endlessly in search of something new. He is amazing. Facts and numbers enter the stream of his thoughts and return in perfect order. Questions pour out of him and answers absorb back in. He is happy when he is learning, and he is perfect. One day the game of musical chairs will begin to change. One day when the world opens up to allow him the freedom to be himself, he will let go of those hopeless words and mine will sit in their place. He is good, he is smart, he is handsome and he is loved. ADHD is a diagnosis, not a curse. ADHD is a condition not a limitation. Encourage your children, help them to replace the negativity in their minds, with the love and affirmation they truly deserve. Be the voice that speaks louder than the doubt. Be the smile that covers them. The music is playing, change the game.
We set them apart like diamonds among rocks,
without all the shine
We recycle our dreams into them
like the eager pouring of old wine
A world full of lukewarm enthusiasts.
Achieving without the work
Loving without the hurt
Believers without a cross to carry
Hope without the fear it marries
Entitled and undeserving with a bravery that’s unnerving
We gave them what we had and what we didn’t
We expected it to make them better versions of who we should have been.
They are the remnants of us, bits and pieces of our lust
Wearing the mark of our failings and honors
Fighting to balance the past and the future
With us on their shoulders
DO you find this title offensive? Good! It is.
How many of us with ADD/ADHD kids have left a conversation soaked in the vomit of horrible parenting advice?
“What he REALLY needs is a few welts with a leather belt, that’ll straighten him up”
“I would NEVER let my child act that way”
“He OBVIOUSLY needs more discipline”
This foul upchuck has decorated my perfectly lovely attire on more occasions that I can count, leaving its putrid scent on every part of my conscious. Well-meaning advice- as it is commonly called- is nothing more than an offensive barrage of insults aimed like a sniper rifle, at the parent; me.
In its simplest form, I call it ignorance. Webster defines Ignorance as “a lack of knowledge, understanding, or education: the state of being ignorant”
Ask yourself the following questions:
- If you are a janitor, do you give your surgeon lessons before undergoing an operation?
- If you are a dentist, do you tell the mechanic how to repair your car when it breaks down?
- If you are a stay home mom, would you show up on a construction site and make suggestions on the proper wood to use or how to lay a slab?
Chances are the answer is no. When you are not experienced in something, you are ignorant. I am not an Oncologist, I cannot treat a cancer patient. I am ignorant.
So why is it, that it seems perfectly acceptable for ignorant people, with otherwise decent intentions, to do exactly that; to storm parents with destructive criticism in the form of advice? The short answer: IT IS NOT!
As a parent we are perfectly within our rights to deny, revoke and rebuke these kids of destructive, forcible suggestions! It has taken me 7 years to get to this realization, and I owe my son an apology for every time I blindly followed this kind of horrid advice, and he paid the price for it.
I’ve swallowed the rotten words of people who aggressively tried to coerce me into believing that my son needed more extreme discipline, harsher punishments and stronger limits. These types of advice act like an ice pick, gouging out chunks of the parent’s spirit, self-esteem, confidence and hope. How dare they!? Now of course I am not speaking out against discipline, structure, routine or punishments, these things are crucial for children. What I am speaking against is the overuse of harsh discipline as a “fix” for children with disabilities. In the same way you would never expect a spanking to cure someone with autism, it is no more effective in “fixing” a child with ADD/ADHD. These children need our HELP not our RATH! They are struggling just as we are, to understand themselves, to hold onto their self image in a world tearing it apart day after day, and they WANT to be good. ADD/ADHD minds work fast, and are wired uniquely, they need unique techniques to thrive. The discipline tactics used in history may not have all been flawed, but in today’s society I see an enormous increase in alarming adult behaviors that may have stemmed from the parenting choices they were subjected to. Consider the number of adults who habitually resort to anger, bullying, hostility and fighting as a response to stressful situations? My guess is these adults came from homes where the main sources of discipline were fear and intimidation. I dont want that passed down to my children. I want their moral compass to come from within themselves not forced upon them by outside forces of fear and anger masquerading as “respect.” I want better! Dont you?
The expression “stay in your lane” never seemed more appropriate than in this context. If you are heavy under the weight of advice that does NOT come from someone experienced in raising a child with ADD/ADHD, or a place of positive encouragement, YOU DO NOT have to accept the offered advice.
It takes some time to build up the defenses we need, the heart of advocacy for our children, and the confidence to use the voice we have, but we must not relent!
If you are bombarded with advice that your gut tells you is wrong for your child, it is OK to stand against it!
You are a capable and wise parent! You are amazing! Did you forget? You have been equipped to raise the children gifted to you! It may not feel that way often, but the truth and the moment are not the same. The moment says “I can’t do this, I have failed, fallen short and feel incapable” but the truth says “I will find a way, I will keep pushing and I will succeed”.